A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Fraser Nelson on the Grange Hill model versus the Swedish model
Previous entry: Eastern Europeans flooding into British universities
Saturday March 22 2008

Incoming from my friend Michael Jennings, with the link to this:

Here, buried in my sixth paragraph, is the most important nugget: we’ve reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools.

I came to this conclusion recently while attending Brainstorm 2008, a delightful conference for computer people in K-12 schools throughout Wisconsin. They didn’t hold breakout sessions on technology battles or tactics, but the idea was in the air. These people were under siege.

I started writing educational software in 1978. The role of instructional technology has changed since then from a gimmick to a novelty to an effort to an essential component of any curriculum.

Kids can’t go to school today without working on computers. But having said that, in the last five years more and more technical resources have been turned to how to keep technology OUT of our schools. Keeping kids from instant messaging, then text messaging or using their phones in class is a big issue as is how to minimize plagiarism from the Internet. These defensive measures are based on the idea that unbound use of these communication and information technologies is bad, that it keeps students from learning what they must, and hurts their ability to later succeed as adults.

But does it?

These are kids who have never known life without personal computers and cell phones. But far more important, there is emerging a class of students whose PARENTS have never known life without personal computers and cell phones. The Big Kahuna in educational discipline isn’t the school, it is the parent. ...

Well, Amen to that last bit.  Cringely is one of the sharpest technocommentators around, and if he says it, it’s worth listening to.

For me, one of the seminal moments at Kings Cross Supplementary comes twice, once at the beginning of proceedings, and once again at the end of the half time break.  This is when the boys must put away their computer games machines, and get out their exercise books and buckle down to what we (and most definitely their parents) consider to be proper work.  But, seeing the eager intelligence that they all show when computer gaming, I do wonder.  They form eager little groups gazing enraptured at the computer screen, like those old pictures of old Belshevik propaganda performers eagerly clustering round a newspaper to rejoice at farm production triumphs, or like my Billion Monkeys, that I go on about at my personal blog, gazing delightedly at their digital photos.

My strategy for investigating Cringely’s hypothesis, adapted for my younger children for whom computer games are the big deal rather than texting and internetting, is: ask the children what they think.  Do you think computer games make you smarter?  Smarter at computer games, certainly.  But what of life?  Is life itself becoming more like a computer game?

Cringely again:

Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work? And what’s wrong with crimping a paragraph here or there from Cringely if it shows you understand the topic?

Hah!

His final paragraph:

Technology is beginning to assail the underlying concepts of our educational system - a system that’s huge and rich and so far fairly immune to economic influence. But the support structure for those hallowed and not so hallowed halls has always been parents willing to pay tuition and alumni willing to give money, both of which are likely to change over a generation for reasons I’ve just spent 1469 words explaining. We are nearing the time when paying dues and embracing proxies for quality may give way to having the ability to know what kids really know, to verify what they can really do, not as 365th in their class at Stanford but as Channing Cringely, who just graduated from nowhere with the proven ability to design time machines.

And mine, for now.  Happy Easter.